When I asked my best friend what she wanted to do for her birthday this year she responded with “something urban.”
She lives in Lynnwood and wanted to do Seattle stuff but, very thankfully, not necessarily hard-to-find-parking, packed-with-crowds, lots-of-walking typical Seattle stuff like Pike Place Market. (I’ve been pretty gimpy lately and don’t handle crowds well.)
Her only specific request was to see the conservatory at Volunteer Park because she’d been wanting to go ever since I posted my preview last fall. The rest she left up to me to plan.
I designed what was intended to be a fairly leisurely four-hour car tour looping around the Seattle core, starting with Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill and ending with a late lunch at Ivar’s Salmon House on the north shore of Lake Union.
The planning revolved not only around choosing where to go, but also figuring how much time we could spend at each stop and how long it would take to get from place to place in order to make our 2:00 restaurant reservation. I even factored in a possible extra stop if we found ourselves running ahead of schedule.
Ha! Good ol’ Murphy had something to say about all that.
We left my place in north Seattle a few minutes after 10 am, right on schedule. And that was almost the only time things went as planned all day.
We were a few blocks north of Volunteer Park on 15th Avenue when we were astounded and dismayed to see that the police had blocked off the street. There was a steady stream of people coming down the middle of the road and turning the corner just ahead.
A police officer at the blockade informed us there was a fun run in progress and that not only was driving to Volunteer Park on 15th impossible, the entire park was closed to vehicles until 1:00 pm.
So there we were, my meticulously planned outing shot all to heck before we even got started. It never occurred to me that Volunteer Park would essentially be inaccessible or that I should have come up with a Plan B for our first stop!
Lesson Learned: Always have a Plan B.
I turned around and pulled off to the side of the street so I could think. I’m a fairly adaptable person, but not immediately. When something goes wrong I have to allow time for a little internal meltdown first. Once that’s out of the way I can function again and enjoy whatever the new plan is.
Eventually I suggested the Woodland Park Rose Garden because I couldn’t think of anything else near Capitol Hill on such short notice. I thought zoo parking might be a problem on a Saturday, but since I wasn’t coming up with any other brilliant ideas I figured it was worth a try. My friend said that sounded good and off we went.
More than half an hour after we were supposed to already be sightseeing we finally arrived at the zoo in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood and easily found a good parking spot. The best, and most timely, bit of luck we had that day.
Sidenote: We arrived at the zoo lot on Fremont a little after 11 am. There were several parking spaces available, but they were filling up quickly as we got there. So try to go early in the day on nice weekends. Also, the parking fee during zoo hours has gone up to $6. It was $5 when I posted my preview last summer. There’s no fee to enter the rose garden, since it’s outside the zoo.
Another Sidenote: If there are other people waiting to pay for parking at a central box, do not decide that’s a good time for your children to get a hands-on lesson in the mysteries of a ticket dispenser. Either that, or let adults go first so they don’t have to wait through a parade of families discovering how the machine works. My friend went to pay for our parking, and she was gone so long I started wondering if she’d been abducted.
After losing a chunk of time to the child-obstructed parking payment process, I told my friend we could only stay in the garden for 45 minutes since we were far off the original tour route. Longer would have been much better (my friend said she could happily spend part of a day there), but it was still enough time to relax, slowly meander, and soak up the peacefulness of our beautiful surroundings.
The rose garden is at its best in summer months, but there were still a multitude of gorgeous blooms. And we had the benefit of a more mellow late September sun, which was perfect for a heat wimp like me. The reflecting pool was full of goldfish, and there was even a cute little bunny hopping around.
Emergency Plan B at Woodland Park Rose Garden worked out as a very enjoyable substitute for the conservatory. We both thought it was time well-spent and my friend was quite taken with the garden’s landscaping.
What I didn’t realize until we were at our next stop, though, was just how much the unplanned extra distance and unexpectedly heavy Saturday traffic put us behind schedule. But that’s for the next post.